Thursday, 19 July 2018

Purple patch then porpoise pathos

The Safari has finally got round to updating our Header pic after almost a year - how lazy of us!
Solemn family business took us south of the river a couple of days ago. The journey back held two options, a) bunk in at Marshside RSPB reserve for a walk down to Nels Hide or b) keep moving to avoid the dreaded 'schools out' traffic around Preston and drop in at Singleton church. We chose the latter as Monty was asleep in the back of the car and not sitting up looking like he needed a toilet stop as we passed Marshside.
A butterfly hunter was already in the churchyard when we arrived but the usual question, 'seen owt?' was answered in the negative. Not the best news but the Oak tree is large although only 58 years old and the sun was shining more strongly on the far side so we had a wander into the newer half of the graveyard. Good decision - within five minutes of looking at the top of the canopy a dark movement much lower down caught our eye and Bingo we were on to a Lifer butterfly Purple Hairstreak.We called the other watcher over and we both enjoyed pretty good binocular views of at least three of them fluttering around a small gap in the lower canopy. Really difficult to get a pic of at 600mm as it was like looking down a pea-shooter absolutely no field of view to speak of so finding the right group of four or five leaves was tricky and then the mixture of bright light on reflective surfaces and dark shadows played havoc with the metering. But we persevered changing settings every time we were able to get on a butterfly and with the magic of processing managed to get a couple of half decent pics for you in the end.
The butterflies themselves must reflect a huge amount of UV as they were horrendously over-exposed and the pics above took a lot of processing to get any colour detail at all.
There seems to be a little bit of a glut of Purple and White Letter Hairstreaks happening at the mo with small colonies of both turning up in new places every few days. Whether they are genuinely new colonies or just because there's more watchers watching and checking different sites other than the known hotspots is perhaps hard to tell but they could be moving around in response to the hot dry weather we've had for the last few weeks. We've even had what was probably a White Letter Hairstreak tazz through the garden at Base Camp and yesterday a small dark bronzy butterfly caught our attention as it fluttered along the cliffs, difficult to keep track of with the bins but deffo not a skipper, which we don't see along here nor was it a Common Blue which despite the profusion of Birds Foot Trefoil foodplant or a Small Copper which we very seldom see along the cliffs and from the flight jizz we reckon it was one of the hairstreaks unfortunately we lost sight of it when it dropped into some long vegetation we had hoped it would settle to nectar on one of the taller Ragwort flowerheads where we could get a proper look at it.
It was while we were trying to refind the butterfly we spotted someone's dog sniffing at something large on the beach, training our bins that way we saw it was a stranded and deceased Harbour Porpoise so down we went for a closer look.
It hadn't been dead long and maybe live stranded on the previous tide and been washed out and back in again. Both cheeks had been eaten away they seem to be the first bit the scavengers go for but that looks like a lot more damage than the not so many gulls on the beach could cause in a short space of time unless they'd been perched on it while it was at sea but we don't see any poop splashes although they could have washed off we suppose. It was collected and was in good enough condition to be sent for a post-mortem for the UK Strandings Scheme.
Other finds on the beach recently have included an awesome undamaged Cuttlefish 'bone'. now what we'd really like would be to find a live one, they're obviously out there somehere.
Not so good a find was this long strand of Wireweed, an invasive species from the Pacific Ocean; we've seen more since trapped on the chains along the slipways down to the beach - must be a bit of a nightmare at where-ever it comes from.
Back at Base Camp the moth trap has been producing small but varied catches. This one is Agriphila straminella, a common 'micro' moth but one that doesn't visit Base Camp very often.
We've got a few more moth pics but we'll share those with you next time...might be even more by then too.

Where to next? another trip out to look for/at the Purple Hairstreaks and maybe a river wander too, if there's any water to call it a river!

In the meantime let us know who's all washed up in your outback.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Hardly mothtastic at Base Camp but...

The Safari has been enviously reading about triple figure overnight moth catches of dozens of species all over social media these last few weeks but unfortunately our own moth trap has produced meagre returns both in terms of nightly numbers and of species involved. That's not to say that we haven't had some fun and are always eager to peer in to the trap each morning just in case there's something different in there - - preferably not wasps!
Here's a trundle through some of the moths we've caught - mostly those that have stayed still long enough for us to get a pic of as it's normally already very warm by the time we're able to get to open the trap and there's always a few escapees, probably the most exciting and/or most colourful ones ie Brimstone moth - they just won't keep still!
Brimstone from a couple of years back
The following are all from this month and in no particular order
Acleris forsskaleana
Acrobasis advenella - New for the garden
Blastobasis adustella
Celypha striana
Currant Pug - New for the garden
Dark Arches - a rather pale individual and worn too
Dot moth
Dotted Clay
Heart & Dart - self explanatory some of these names aren't they!
Large Yellow Underwing
Marbled Beauty
Marbled Minor
Mouse moth
Pammene fasciana
Poplar Grey
Poplar Grey doing what they do best, can you spot him?
Red Barred Tortrix - New for the garden
Riband Wave
A couple of Rustics - or are they???
Scalloped Oak
Small Magpie
Uncertain - Yes that's it's name - - see Rustics above
Our thanks for the trickier identifications go to Sean on Twitter at @mothIDUK he must have the patience of a saint as every morning his feed is jam packed with enquiries from novice moth-ers like ourselves. He really is a font of all moth knowledge and if ever there's a Twitter award he should get it. He's what social media was invented for and should be all about - none of that advertising, spam and bot nonsense.
In other news we've missed a few Bottlenose Dolphins along the coast - we just don't seem to be able to connect with them and the other day we were at a rainy (the first rain for weeks!!!!!!! Grrrrr) Leighton Moss with CR when news broke of a Risso's Dolphin off our former regular watch point at a time when had we not retired we'd have been peering over the wall at the sea. We had hoped to go to the private reserve a little further north but the rain meant we needed at least some cover which is lacking there. The Risso's Dolphin was the second record in less than a year after a decade of no sightings and perhaps begs the question is it the same individual returning this summer after last summer and will it come back around the same time next summer? The species is an infrequent visitor to Liverpool Bay preferring the deeper water of the western parts of the Irish Sea and off the peninsulas of the Welsh coast.
Our visit to Leighton Moss was rain affected and we were a little unlucky with our leaving and arrivinf at certain hides - you should have been here five minutes ago the Otter caught a massive fish and later we were told you should have stayed a bit longer there were three Marsh Harriers up together...dohhh some days the gods are against you but there's always something to see.Summer plumaged Black Tailed Godwits are always a joy
We got a much better shot of a Snipe for our Year List Photo Challenge which still stands at 147 as no more new species were added on this visit.
A Water Rail showed well close by at the Causeway but was always obscured by either a close to us or a close to it reed leaf when the camera fired and we got no pics with its face in a proper clear view.
An adult Water Rail with a tiny black chick was out on the mud on the far side of the pool but too far away for a decent pic unfortunately.
Much closer and of real interest was a Carrion Crow which had picked up a live Eel, we assume (and you should never assume anything) that the Eel was swimming close to the surface among the rocks at the water's edge and the crow had grabbed it, there were no other birds nearby that could have caught and then dropped it.
A Cormorant was also fishing for Eels.
While we waited for the Otters, Ospreys and Bitterns not to show we were entertained by a family of Pied Wagtails flitting around feasting on the innumerable flies and a post hopping Black Headed Gull.
We didn't spend long at the saltmarshes as the pools had dried up and there were only a few juvenile Black Headed Gulls loafing a around - don't think we've ever seen it so dry or so quiet down there.
Young Black Headed Gulls are very bonny birds and all slightly different as they go through their moults at slightly different speeds/times
So a slightly disappointing day out on safari after 'enduring' weeks of glorious weather, the camera was racked up to ISO Stupid for the first time in months!
The following morning dawned hot and sunny - Bl**dy typical!!! - so we took Monty out early to the Rock Gardens before the sun got too hot for him and hopefully before the masses of  blood sucking Cleggs were on the wing - no chance, good job we had our 50% DEET with us just in case.
There was no sign of any White Letter Hairstreaks around their favourite tree but we did see a good many other butterflies; probably in excess of 75 Meadow Browns and likewise 25+ Gatekeepers
with a supporting cast of 'loads' of Small and Large Whites, but no Green Veined Whites that others elsewhere in the country are seeing in good numbers, a few skippers all of those we could get on to and ID were Large Skippers,

a Small Copper,
a female Common Blue
We tried to get a pic of the upperside to show it was a female but Monty was being a nightmare and kept poking his nose in to the grass too close to it and it kerpt flying off, and a Speckled Wood.
Where to next? We've got a moth and bat night coming up later in the week and the moth trap will be back on at Base Camp as soon as this welcome rain gives over. 

In the meantime let us know who's fluttering around the lights in your outback

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A morning's rampage through the Rock Gardens

The Safari apologises for being 'off-air' for so long. We have been out n about on safari but have had serious family stuff to deal with culminating in the not-unexpected funeral earlier this week.
With a bit more time on our hands we were able to join CR at the local park mid-week for a butterfly hunt and arriving there we found former colleague WM already searching for the White Letter Hairstreaks.
By eck it was hot and humid down in the 'Butterfly Zone', the rough un-managed bit of the park. Unfortunately with the recent hot spell all but a tiny few of the Bramble flowers have been pollinated already and are turning in to tasty Blackberries. This along with the total lack of Thistles this season meant there was no nectar to tempt the Hairstreaks down from their favourite tree top so we have no pics of them for you, They did emerge very early this year, looking back through our Flickr site we tend to see them on Bramble and Thistle flowers about now or even later!
Although our quarry wasn't for showing itself other than fluttering around the uppermost branches of their favourite tree we did find plenty of other insects to point the camera at.
Celypha laculana
Field Grahopper - or is it Common Green Grasshopper?
It seems to have hairs on the underside which would make it Field but we're not totally sure
Gatekeeper and common Wasp
The same Gatekeeper
Large Skipper - a male due to the scent lines on the wing
Meadow Brown
Leptopterna dolabrata - female
Leptopterna dolabrata - male
Small Skipper - female - - no scent lines on the upper wings
Definitely a female - she started laying eggs on the nearby grass stems
And then went for another refuel
Common Red Soldier Beetle - not sure hat the white stuff on it's face is
If the White Letter Hairstreaks are the animal speciality of the site then Ploughman's Spikenard must be the plant speciality. This year we can only find a handful of specimens but typically there's a dozen or more. Somehow this site was omitted from the huge and authoritative Flora of North Lancashire.
Our final tally was 13 species of butterflies, including Small Tortoiseshell, shich CR didn't see and Small Copper which WM had seen before we arrived. With a bit of luck we could have added Common Blue, Peacock and Green Veined White but were perhaps just between broods wit hthem on the cusp of emerging.
An Emperor dragonfly was good to see there too.
Pottering around in the garden later that afternoon we were lucky enough to be visited by a Comma, a species seen at the Rock Gardens but not keeping still enough to be photographed - well we made amends!
In other news we've moved our Photo Year List Challenge on by not a lot to 147, adding poor pics of
Red Kite
 and Green Woodpecker
Both a long long way away while on our sunny sojourn to south Shropshire. We failed to see, never mind get a pic of, the Yellowhammer that was singing from the hedgerows almost all day every day!

A wander out along the new seawall at Rossall with GB the other afternoon  gave us distant, but close for here, views of Manx Shearwaters....Stop we type this rubbish there's a House Sparrow calling in the garden - our 1st of the year!!!!!
And relax...and back to the Manx Sheawaters...
We've been doing a lot of moth trapping in the garden and trapping not a lot of moths but we've had some nice ones and some NFGs (New For the Garden) so hopefully we'll let you know all about those in the net couple of days.

Where to next? This coming Thursday we're joining the Wildlife Trust's Living Seas NW team again for the monthly sea watch at Rossall Coastguard tower, Bottlenose Dolphins were filmed off the prom at Cleveleys yesterday evening) so finger (and everything else crossed) for a good result on the watch. And then we're out with CR again perhaps to the private reserve on the fringe of Lakeland.

In the meantime let us know who's been fluttering round the tree tops in your outback